From whence they came A history of our social houses

By Middlebury Campus

Author: [no author name found]

Some students love Middlebury College for its lack of Greek life; some hate it. The five social houses currently on campus – KDR, Omega Alpha (Tavern), the Mill, ADP and Xenia – are reminders of what the College once boasted: a huge fraternity scene. In 1967, there were 11 fraternities at the College. Being in a fraternity was simply a part of the culture. Everyone was doing it. In the 1980s, however, student involvement in frat life had fallen to only 15%.

Outrage ensued after members of Middlebury College’s Delta Upsilon fraternity displayed a battered and bloodied female mannequin from their balcony in 1988. Students were disgusted at the scene, especially the slogan written across the back of the dummy: “Random Hole.” The College experienced what Lecturer in English and American Literatures David Bain, in his book “The College on the Hill” described as a “crisis of conscience” because even though some students were opposed to this image of violence, it was not until a dean insisted that the mannequin be removed that any action was taken. Though the president of Delta Upsilon issued a public apology, students remained upset over the fact that no one had questioned the unsettling incident, and the fraternity system was placed under a more skeptical eye.

Eventually, the College decided to abolish the fraternities altogether, and in 1991, “social houses” emerged from the ashes of what was the College’s Greek life system. These social houses are very diverse and cater to many different populations and hold distinct histories.

Some “unaffiliated” students on campus may dislike the social house system, holding certain beliefs or misconceptions about particular houses, but what follows is a glimpse into their histories and the inside scoop on their current situation …

– Rachael Jennings, Features Editor


Though it has only been around since 1996, Delta house is notorious among upperclassmen who remember the series of events during the 2005-06 academic year that prompted President of the College Ronald D.Liebowitz to temporarily disband it. In November of that year, the house was placed on probation for a party held during a pledge lock-in. Even worse, a party in April 2006 chalked up numerous violations of the College’s party rules, everything from unregistered alcohol to intoxicated hosts. In addition to the violations, dorm damages that year exceeded $1,300, which resulted in the suspension of pledge, party and residential privileges.

But Delta members are not accustomed to giving up easily. Even without a building to call their own or the ability to hold pledge, the group was determined to show that they deserved to be welcomed back. During the 2006-07 academic year, members washed cars to raise money for the Make-A-Wish foundation, hosted tailgate parties at home football games and fielded a Relay for Life team.

In spring 2007, President of the College Emeritus John M. McCardell, Jr. became Delta’s new faculty adviser. Under former president Christopher Angelini ’08, Delta successfully applied to be reinstated, and the College agreed to welcome it back to the Middlebury social scene for the current academic year.

The house, which was formerly affiliated with the national Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, is now known simply as Delta, and has made an effort this year to distance itself from its turbulent past.

“The current leadership is mostly juniors,” said Delta member Claire Williams ’10, “and they’ve done a good job of transitioning from the problems in the past.”

Located in Prescott, one of the four Ridgeline houses on the southwestern edge of campus, Delta now counts 29 members, according to President Steve Hardin ’10.

Hardin, a linebacker on the football team, counts several teammates among his fellow Delta members. He explained that team camaraderie helps focus some of the house’s current community service projects.

“There are a lot of football players who do Relay for Life,” Hardin said. “We also help out with football teams at local high schools.”

But football players aren’t the only students you’ll find at Delta on a Friday night. Williams said she appreciates the gender balance – this semester, there are 14 women and 14 men – which makes the house a more enjoyable place to live.

“I also like the location,” Williams said. “Being close to Palmer and the other Ridgeline houses is great.”

For Nell Leshner ’10, Delta provided a welcoming environment after coming back from a fall semester abroad.

“I thought it was great to come back and live with some people that I knew well and others that I got to know,” Leshner said.

For some, the major draw of social houses is the parties, and in that respect, Delta does not disappoint. Besides informal get-togethers, the house has hosted several major parties this semester, including an America-themed “Red, White and Blues” party and a Catalina wine mixer modeled after the movie “Step Brothers.”

-Tom Brant


On May 17, 1905, a group of 10 men met in a room in Old Painter Hall to form what would eventually become a well-known American college fraternity with 36 chapters across the United States, Kappa Delta Rho. These 10 founders were George Edwin Kimball, Irving Thurston Coates, John Beecher, Pierce Wordsworth Darrow, Thomas Howard Bartley, Benjamin Edward Farr, Gideon Russell Norton, Gino Arturo Ratti, Chester Monroe Walch and Roy Dyer Wood.

At the time, only three fraternities and a large neutral group called the Commons Club existed on campus. KDR formed out of the Commons Club. After much discussion, the founders decided they would give their fraternity the Greek letters, Kappa Delta Rho, Delta Tau Delta, a preexisting fraternity, sent a representative to the College to speak with the group of founders about simply becoming a part of their fraternity, but the men politely refused. According to Kimball, they decided that they “preferred to paddle [their] own canoe.” They chose the motto “honor super omnia,” meaning, “honor above all things.”

In David Bain’s “The College on the Hill,” there is an excerpt written by a 1921 Delta Rho member named Lawrence J. Pierce: “The Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house was about a half mile from the main college campus, right near the athletic field. It was a large, former presidential home, with lots of land around it. When I returned for my sophomore year I moved into the fraternity house. We had a housemother, Mrs. Holbrook, who kept the fraternity in perfect condition. She enforced strict rules and no drinking. I can’t remember much smoking either.”

The KDR house students inhabit today is the same one used in the 1920s, and is still filled with memory and traditions that members feel are very important. The College has asked KDR to move down to Ridgeline and join the other social houses, but current brothers and alumni are very opposed to this idea. Each room has a name, and alumni often return to the house to tell stories and chat with current members about their time in the house during their undergraduate years. Members take great pride in the house and the lawn that surrounds it, which is not owned by the College. KDR’s famous tradition, The Pig Roast, has taken place on that lawn for decades.

The fraternity existed for many years as an all-male institution, excluding women who worked in the house. Pierce mentions Mrs. Holbrook, but there were many female figures that came to be very much a part of the fraternity even when it was still technically all male. A small apartment in the house existed for chef Diane Ambo, who many referred to as “house mom.” In the 1990s, when Middlebury forced its fraternities to become co-ed social institutions, Kappa Delta Rho National disallowed Middlebury’s chapter from continuing to be a national chapter. However, Middlebury’s role in the original formation of the organization and the pleas of Middlebury alumni led National to reconsider their decision and make a special exception for Middlebury’s KDR. Instead of being considered an Alpha Chapter, they are considered an Alpha Society, something unique and only accepted at Middlebury.

Kappa Delta Rho has always taken pride in their pledge as a means of bringing their pledge class together. In Pierce also explained parts of his pledge experience.

“I remember my initiation into the fraternity,” he wrote. “It was an all-night affair that involved going to the cemetery and scrambling in an open grave with another neophyte. After that, we went on a long hike into the country, blindfolded. Left alone, I had difficulty orienting myself. I remember knocking on a door where there was a light. A man came with a big dog and was ready to chase me. It was frightening but I finally got back home.”

Although current KDR member Alex Glaser ’09 could not comment extensively on the secrets behind KDR’s notoriously difficult and fun pledge, he did say it remains a very important tradition that truly does bond pledges and brothers and aids making the house into the great place it is today.

Tucked away in their beautiful house filled with memories, Kappa Delta Rho, despite many generations passed, still holds on to the spirit of its founding over 100 years ago.

-Logan Brown


Weekends at The Mill will always be just a little bit different. The unique nature of The Mill as a social house and as a specific group of people can be traced back to its beginnings. In 1991, a group of friends decided to create a new, alternative social house where they could foster their quirkiness in peace.

“The Mill is the disordered social house